My Rock

Violet Vous

I was 13 years old when my family adopted my best friend. We rescued him from Ohio, where he was found with an 8lb chain around his neck in less than ideal conditions. He was a handsome, 9-month old, white lab-pit mix with a few brown spots, and a splash of black on his tail. He sported a lil brown spot on his right eyeball, which inspired his original name, Petey, after the dog in The Little Rascals.

After a couple weeks of “fostering” him, we were able to convince my dad to keep him for good. I was ecstatic to finally have a dog once again, after losing a couple of my first pups to tragic accidents. We decided to rename him Rocky, which was randomly inspired by the Rocky Balboa film series (we thought it would resonate well with my dad). Rocky had a heart-shaped nose, which inspired…

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Summer Book Clubs 2021

It’s been a very busy spring and start to the summer and admittedly my head has been in a book or listening to books. The more I listen to books, the more I want to read physical books, not just the ones on my Kindle. I like the feel of a hardback book on my lap, the feel of the pages as I turn them. Recently, I joined two book clubs that send you physical hardback books. I don’t live near a local bookstore – independent or otherwise, so I have found my recent membership into these two clubs to be helpful in introducing me to new books and authors.

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Book of the Month Club was my obvious first choice, since I am very old-school. This was the club that my Mom was a member of way-back-when. I remember the box showing up as a little girl – like a gift in the mail! I thought it was the coolest thing, still do. My first book sent to me was The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I wrote a review of the book in my post Reading & Listenings – May 2021.

The other book club I am a member of is Literati which I discovered through my Instagram. Literati has a number of different clubs within their website and the books are selected authors, celebrities and people of interest. I am currently in the Joy Collective hosted by Kelly McGonigal. The focus of this group is : ” Rousing page-turners steeped in the science of our human brain…The Joy Collective will help you to discover actionable strategies to bring more joy, compassion, and resilience into your life. Feel connected to something bigger than yourself with books that explore our capacity to find hope, courage, and belonging.”

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So far I have read the June pick of Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I was sucked into the story from the moment I opened the book. Kazuo Ishiguro is a beautiful writer who masterfully brings us right into the world of artificial intelligence with introducing us to Klara, the main character and narrator. Klara provides an interesting and unique perspective. The book touches upon many themes: relationships between humans and relationships humans have with technology; grief; social inequality, just to name a few. I highly recommend this to anyone – it’s a beautifully written book and has such an interesting perspective on what the future could bring.

What I like about the Literati Club which I think BOMC could do a better job is Literati makes you feel like you are part of a book club complete with discussions and questions to think about. Both have websites and apps but again Literati’s seems to be more engaging, particularly the ability to post a question to the group or make a remark. where as BOMC is simply more about selling the books as opposed to building a community discussion around the books.

The July pick for Literati’s Joy Collective which I have only just started yesterday The Beauty of Break by Michele Harper

Readings and Listenings – May 2021

As I have been listening to more and more books, I have wanted to read more and more books. Initially, I was having trouble staying awake when I read since I always was trying to read before bed when I was already tired. I eventually figured out a little lunchtime reading was a good time for me. I wasn’t as tired in the middle of the day. One morning I was so interested to get back to my book I decided to read my book instead of my phone. Progress.

“Darlin’,” he drawled, “go when you are invited. Bring good boots, drive slow, take blankets, carry your own salt, but by all means… go where the light is.

That’s not bad advice, wherever you live. Darlin’.”

Mud Season – Ellen Stimson

I also began with short books. Short, non-intimidating-in-length-or-thickness, books. Mud Season: How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another is a mouthful of a title but the book itself was completely manageable. There isn’t much more to say about this book without giving anything away that hasn’t been given away already in the title. I enjoyed reading this book, it gave me a few laughs and some nice recipes to boot. It’s the perfect 256-page book to settle in with during mud season.

When I wasn’t reading Mud Season, I was listening to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This title had been one of the first books that I added to my Audible library, then forgot about. Although I am uncertain as to where the original recommendation came from I noticed that James Patterson recommended it in his Masterclass course.

The Audible version I listened to was narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite and ran for 9 hours and 35 minutes. I’m not sure whether the narrator’s interpretation for certain characters’ voices may have ultimately affected how much I liked this book. I found certain voices to be annoying, although it could also have been the character.

This book was just okay for me. Parts were more interesting than others. But as a whole it was just 3 stars okay.

“It was easier to manipulate someone if they didn’t perceive you as a threat.”

― Stephanie Wrobel, Darling Rose Gold

I decided to switch things up with my next selection with Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. Woah. Twisted is a good adjective to describe this book. Neither main characters (Patty or Rose Gold) are likeable which says a lot without saying too much. If you are into psychological thrillers – you will enjoy this selection. The Audible Audiobook is narrated by Megan Dodds and Jill Winternitz and runs 10 hours and 18 minutes in which the author holds your attention throughout. 3 Stars.

I wish I could remember how I found out about this next book I read so that I can thank them for the recommendation. This was a great story! The narration was by Bahni Turpin who was incredible and handled the various voices both male and female masterfully. The story runs 8 hours and 21 minutes long.

Laila Ibrahim has written a beautiful book about relationships. Ibrahim captures the strong bond formed between two women from completely different worlds in the decades leading up to the Civil War. She skillfully weaves into the story the historical views of the South about slavery and the behavior exhibited by some men towards women regardless of color in that time. This was a great book which I highly recommend to any fan of historical fiction. 4 stars!!

But I know a good man make life more sweet. Someone to hold you and love you, someone to share your dreams with, someone kind and thoughtful. A good man’s a treasure.

Laila Ibrahim – Yellow Crocus spoken by Mattie

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a book that I believe I learned about through some of the people I follow on the website Goodreads.com. I enjoyed this book immensely and appreciate a story about life, its realities but ultimately the possibilities which lay before all of us. The Audible audiobook is narrated by Carey Mulligan and runs 8 hours 50 minutes. I have since recommended it also to my daughter, who adored it and my brother, who is in the process of reading it.

The only way to learn is to live.

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

[A quick note about Goodreads.] Last year I joined the Goodreads reading challenge and found that because of the challenge, it’s a personal one – you set the goal- I was more driven to read and listen to books. My biggest obstacle was that I always equated listening to my audiobooks on my long drives to visit my family down in Connecticut and with the quarantine I wasn’t driving anywhere. Instead, I would listen to a book while I was drawing or painting or even while working on a few puzzles. If it was a nice day and I had outdoor chores like weeding the garden or stacking wood, I would listen to my book as I did my work. Now I even find myself listening to my books while cleaning the house – except while vacuuming. Although I suppose the headphones would work well enough since I use them while I am riding the lawn tractor and listening. I made my goal of 50 book and then some last year.

For me, Goodreads has been a great source of ideas and a great way to share book ideas with friends and family. It helps so much to know what types of books people like to read in case you would like to gift them a book. FYI – I don’t get anything for recommending them in any way, shape or form. I just like the site and think other readers would too. Enough about that.

“Change isn’t always comfortable, but it is a fact of life.”

― Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki

Switching to one of my favorite genres – mythology, I listened to The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. The Gospel of Loki is part of a series Loki, Book 1 and I found this to be a fun and entertaining book to listen to. Loki’s story is told by the merry prankster, himself, such a different angle to spin the old familiar stories. Loki is such a wonderful character and Allan Corduner does a fantastic job bringing Loki to life! If you enjoy mythology, you will enjoy this. The Audible audiobook runs 10 hours and 6 minutes.

For a few months now I have been intimidated to listen to one of my books. I have discovered the equivalent of the way I would react to books of many pages. The big thick books that would usually make me not read the book just because I thought it would take me forever finish. For audiobooks, it’s length in hours and minutes, specifically when the books get into the 18+ hours. Keith Richard’s memoir Life is 23 hours and 5 minutes and it sat in my library for over 6 months. But I finally decided to dive in.

Wow, I knew when I dove into listening to Keith Richard’s Life that I would be in for a wild ride and that it was and more. I’ve listened to a few memoirs but non as long as this one, but after all we are talking about Keith Richards, the man, the myth and the legend which Keith addresses all three.

“When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.”

― Keith Richards


There is a lot to unpack in Keith’s life and it is so interesting. Musicians who understand how to play music will really be interested in his describing certain riffs and other technical aspects which Keith discusses – I am not musically inclined but it certainly did not diminish from the experience of listening to Keith’s story.
I loved learning about how certain songs came to be and what was going on behind the scenes while they were working on different albums and tours.
Keith published this in 2010, eleven (11) years ago now and the Rolling Stones are still together and still touring. God Bless You Keith!

I joined the Book of the Month Club so that I would be exposed to some new books and authors. Many people are very familiar with Kristin Hannah from her bestseller, The Nightingale but when my BOMC have me a chance to select on of her books I had not read any of her books and thought The Great Alone looked like as good as place as any to start. I am so glad I did too, I loved this book! I could relate to some of the rough living – feeding the animals in the middle of a snowy winter; feeding our wood furnace twice a day and making sure we have enough wood to burn throughout the season.

“… home was not just a cabin in a deep woods that overlooked a placid cove. Home was a state of mind, the peace that came from being who you were and living an honest life.”

― Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone

I found myself at times eager to sit down and escape into the Alaskan wilderness which Kristin Hannah describes so well. Every character in the book brings something to the table which adds to the depth of the story. You come to care about each and every one of them. I highly recommend this book , it’s a great read!

Note: There are many themes that run throughout the story – some can be more triggering than others depending on your own personal experiences (abuse, first love, loss).

Readings and Listenings- April 2021

It’s was a whirlwind of a spring for me and from the looks of it, I had my head in a book or audiobook most of the time. Not a bad place to be actually. I counted up 14 titles in April and May – averaging 7 titles per months sounds about right. I have started to read – yes, with my eyes – more. It seems all this listening to books is having a positive effect on my ability to read. There was a time not too long ago where I had a tough time staying awake when I tried to read. Reading before bedtime, for someone who traditionally always struggled as a reader, is not a good time to start trying to build a new habit. I think that’s why I gravitated to the audiobooks. I love the freedom they give me, allowing me to be drawing or outside weeding in the garden with headphones on. I have been able to listen to fantastic works which previously I was too intimidated to attempt because reading has been a lifelong struggle for me. I’m a slow reader, although I must admit I am finally picking up my pace — after 50 years! Slow and steady…

The mind forgets but the heart will always remember. And what is the heart’s memory but love itself?

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

When I left off last post, I had already started The Gardens of Evening Mists as per the recommendation of my cousin who had learned about the book from her step-mom, also my Aunt. I am thankful the family grapevine brought me this book recommendation.

The Garden of Evening Mists is beautifully written by Tan Twan Eng and narrated by Anna Bentinck and runs 15 hours, 37 minutes. The descriptions of the Japanese garden of Yuguri will transport you to the Cameron Highlands of Malaya. But this book goes so much deeper than that. The characters are full of depth and each have their own individual stories which weave together in a story of love and survival during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. I highly recommend this book anyone interested in historical fiction or Asian culture. 4 Stars.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm- George Orwell

With everything going on in the United States of late, I had to re-read this great classic by Mr, George Orwell. I found Animal Farm to be as thought provoking today in 2021 as I did when I read it in high school in the early 1980s. I actually feel I have an even better understanding of what exactly George Orwell has been trying to warn us of through his illustrative tale.

I highly recommend either reading or re-reading or listening to Animal Farm. This classic withstands the test of time. Orwell is such a master of words and conveys so much in such a short succinct story. 101 pages which everyone should read or just over 3 hours to listen to – either way time well spent!

Words can be like x-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

I stayed on the theme of dystopia with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The title has come up as recommended reading by a couple of authors in my Masterclass courses: Atwood and Patterson, so I thought now was as good a time to revisit it. I listened to the free version which is offered with my Audible membership which is an 8 hour unabridged version but is narrated by Michael York. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really enjoy listening to Michael York read to me. As for Huxley’s story, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s good even though it’s disturbing how prophetic is seems Huxley has been. I think Brave New World is a book that may need to be read, digested, re-read, digested, and not given over to someone else’s interpretation whether it be visual or even auditorial. It’s all in the words which when you read, you are pierced. 4 Stars Story, 1 Star Narrator.

My father and I have been talking more about the books we are reading and he recommended Need To Know by Karen Cleveland. He raved about how good it was and how much he enjoyed reading it. The Audible version is unabridged and narrated by Mia Barron who was excellent and runs for 9 hours and 39 minutes. After finishing Need to Know for myself, I thought that I just listened to an episode of the television show The Americans. Not that that’s bad, I liked that show and thought my Dad would like it too, if he watched something other than sports. Need To Know ultimately is an entertaining spy-thriller that would appeal to readers of that genre. A perfectly good beach read at 3 stars.

Still in the mood for mystery, I decided to check in with one of the classics that was recommended to me in one of my Masterclass writing classes. Specifically, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie had been recommended by Margaret Atwood as an excellent example of a first person narrative. It was and is an magnificent recommendation too that I give 5 stars! Agatha Christie is the master of mystery and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another piece of evidence in proving that case. The narrator, Hugh Fraser is the perfect storyteller for this story. If you are a fan of a good mystery – check this one out!

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”

― Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Changing gears completely, I switched over to something that held some history and adventure with The Republic of Pirates:Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and The Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard, narrated by Lewis Grenville.

I have always been intrigued by pirates since I was a young girl. However, other than what I had seen in movies and via Disney, I realized I knew nothing about them, Until now. I loved learning the true history and story behind the Caribbean Pirates. The book is well researched and the way Colin Woodard weaves in real dialogue with the factual stories is well done. 5 stars!

I have so many more books to discuss, but I think this is a good place to take a pause. So look for more book recommendations in my next post Readings and Listenings – May 2021. If you are on the website Goodreads you can follow my reviews on my Goodreads.

Happy reading and listening!

February/March AudioBook Club

It’s hard to believe it’s March already. The last month has been somewhat of a blur to me. A week into the month, my son called to tell me that he hurt his knee while sitting on his air mattress which has been doubling for a couch while he waits for the couch he ordered in December to arrive. The good news is that we learned just yesterday that it is scheduled for delivery the last Friday of this month. Finally.

Me and Mom

The second week of the month started with my mother experiencing her second stroke in 5 months – this stroke ultimately took her life 5 days later. Since then we have said our goodbyes to her as a family graveside and with extended friends and extended family via a zoom memorial. I miss my long conversations with her and now continue to grieve. It will take some time but life goes on.

I have been reminded of that fact this last week as I have been consumed with dealing with my son’s knee surgery and having to care for him during his recovery. My mother always said ‘the job of a parent isn’t ever really fully done.’ She was always there for me when I needed her and I will always be there for my kids when and if they need my help. In the last 7 days, I have averaged 3.4 miles of walking and 10 flights of stairs daily in my own house simply running around, going up and down the stairs (the house unfortunately is not set up with a first floor bedroom). My left knee hurts a little bit.

I find listening to my books to be such a relief. It’s my me-time. I have been downloading my tax forms and filing stuff from last year that never got filed in 2020. I haven’t felt very artistic lately but I am trying to relax and get back into the routine of drawing.

I listened to 2 books in February, the first was a title I had in my library for a while and as part of my resolution to read the older titles in my library and stop accumulating more books – which I still do anyway – I finally tackled it. I am so glad I did too! Beneath a Scarlet Sky is a phenomenal story by Mark T. Sullivan. The audiobook which I listened to is narrated by Will Damron and runs 17 hours and 43 minutes and is just amazing! Wow! I found this to be a fascinating book.

“It all made Pino realize that the earth did not know war, that nature would go on no matter what horror one man might inflict on another. Nature didn’t care a bit about men and their need to kill and conquer.

Mark T. Sullivan, Beneath a Scarlet Sky

The story is about the remarkable life of Pino Lello, a young boy from Italy during WWII. I was on the edge of my seat plenty of times throughout the story. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is interested in history and adventures. 5 Stars.

I decided to switch gears afterwards and listened to another Taylor Jenkins Reid novel – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I found this book to drag in areas, granted that’s a lot of husbands to go through. Overall the plot is interesting and Evelyn Hugo character who I found to be very deep and complex. However, the character of Monique annoyed me bit. She seemed a bit whiny at times and I don’t like hanging out with whiny people and I have begun to notice I don’t like books as much that feature whiny protagonists. The book is narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan and Robin Miles and runs 12 hours and 10 minutes. 3.5 Stars.

I am able to focus so much better on things and block out all the external clutter of the world which has been great lately. I continue to listen to The Word of Promise Audio Book, New King James Version which is narrated by Michael York, Jason Alexander, Joan Allen, Richard Dreyfus, Louis Gossett, Malcolm McDowell Jr., Gary Sinese, Marisa Tomei and Stacy Keach. This behemoth runs 98 hours and 1 minute. I’m only 2 hours 26 minutes into it so far but I have enjoyed listening to it. I have only read parts of the Bible and it is one of my resolutions to complete.

I began the March with A Burning: A Novel by Megha Majumdar. A classmate of mine who now lives in Australia recommended the book. The audiobook runs only 7 hours and 22 minutes and is narrated by Vikas Adam, Priya Ayyar, Deepti Gupta, Soneela Nankani, Neil Shah and Ulka Simone Monhanty who all take on the voices of the various characters features in this story about class, corruption, justice and the individual roads fated in life.

I found this to be an interesting glimpse into a different culture. The characters are unique and captivating – yet, all somewhat relatable despite living in a country where societal norms differ greatly from those in the western cultures. I felt frustrated for Jivan and Lovely and what they endure as women in India.

Many years ago I would have been asking why is this happening? But now I am knowing that there is no use in asking these questions. In life, many things happen for no reason at all.

Megha Majumdar, A Burning: A Novel

I thoroughly enjoyed the The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Since finishing it, there are descriptive scenes which have stayed with me and I thought about repeatedly. I love old fairy tales and I love the idea of taking a children’s story and turning it into a novel. I loved the passages about the landscape and I found the characters to be as deep and full as the Alaskan snows they endured. I highly recommend this book to readers who are interested in adventures in the Alaskan wilderness with a touch of old fashioned fairy tale weaved into a modern day story of love and survival. 4 stars.

Currently I have started to listen to The Garden of Evening Mists by Tang Twan Eng, a recommendation from my cousin who first heard about the book from my Aunt. My cousin raved about it and thought I would enjoy since I love nature and gardening so much. I’ll let you know what I think about it next time.

Happy Reading –
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

January 2021 – My Audiobook Club

I started 2021 off with an old Oprah’s Book Club recommendation American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins narrated by Yareli Arizmendi, it runs 16 hours, 43 minutes. I really enjoyed this book as it is filled with good characters who you come to care about. You are taken on their journey and the author does a good job of putting the reader/listener right by their side. 4 Stars.

Trauma waits for stillness. Lydia feels like a cracked egg, and she doesn’t know if she is the shell or the yolk, or the whole white. She is scrambled.

Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt

My cousin recommended The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse to me and I will be forever grateful that she did. This is a beautiful book – which I listened to the audiobook but also ordered myself the hardcover version of and am still waiting to receive a month later. So I am really happy I listened to the audiobook and didn’t have to delay the wonderfully powerful words that Charlie Mackesy wrote and had the pleasure of listening to the author tell his tale. In 58 minutes, I listened to one of the most powerful and touching stories I know I have ever known. I am eager to see his beautiful illustrations that are set to his equally beautiful words. This is a MUST READ- MUST LISTEN TO. 5 Stars

“The greatest illusion,” said the mole “is that life should be perfect.”

Charlie Mackesy – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

My son gave my the audiobook, From Here to There: The Art & Science of Finding & Losing Our Way for Christmas. We are always talking about finding our way in life whether it be on an actual road or hypothetical one. A Wired Most Fascinating Book of the Year, I am sure this is where he came across this title.

Michael Bond helps us explore from here to there and the fine art of navigating through life. Bond gives examples of people having been lost and then found and what they learned from their investigations. I found this to be a fascinating listen -albeit a bit technical in spots which is also why listening to this book was a better choice for me since I probably wouldn’t have read the technical parts as well as I listened to Pete Cross, the narrator read them to me. 3 Stars.

As the month rolled on I switched gears and listened to The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen- another recommendation from my Instagram friends over at Bites by the Page from the end of April. This was a great book that has your head spinning try to keep up with all the twists and turns. I highly recommend curling up with this book or audiobook. I listened to this book narrated by Julia Whelan and it runs 11 hours, 25 minutes. Four Stars.

I was happy,I think, but I wonder now if y memory is playing tricks on me. If it is giving me the gift of an illusion. We all layer them over our remembrances, the filters through which we want to see our lives.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, The Wife Between Us

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is read by Janet Song and runs 11 hours and 6 minutes. This was an interesting story, the beginning reminded me of a young adult novel, I read with my children when they were in middle school called The Ties That Bind, the Ties that Break by Lensey Namioka and was published in 1999. The story of the relationship between Lily and Snow Flower is more than a story about two women in 19th century China and what they encounter in life. It’s the story about the close relationship women form and the depths of those bond and how misunderstandings can arise and threaten them. The more I thought about this book, the more I liked it. 4 Stars.

In our country we call this type of mother love teng ai. My son has told me that in men’s writing it is composed of two characters. The first means pain; the second means love. That is a mother’s love.

Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Switching genres, I decided to listen to Bryan Cranston’s memoir, A Life in Parts. I like Bryan Cranston – although not a Malcolm in the Middle viewer, although I may revisit that since listening to his book. Cranston is an interesting fellow who has lead a very interesting life. I enjoyed listening to his rise to fame and it was fun hearing some of the background about Breaking Bad. If you enjoy Bryan Cranston as an actor, you will enjoy his book. 4 stars.

The best teacher is experience. Find the educational in every situation.

Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts

Next I listened to The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens, narrated by Lisa Flanagan, Katie Schorr, Jack de Golia and runs 8 hours and 47 minutes. This book touches upon a number of intense subjects – but I guess that’s what happens when you glimpse into the lives of a neighborhood. A good mystery to curl up with when you are in the mood for one. 3 Stars.

Finally I ended the month with Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski, narrated by Xe Sands and it runs 10 hours, 16 minutes. I found this book a little difficult to get through only because I did not like any of the characters in this book except for Marva – everyone else I was not a fan of and certainly would not hang out with any of them if they were real.
The issues dealt in the book are very real though – addiction, hoarding, suicide, aging and though I don’t like the character, Lucy, there are many Lucys in this world. She handles her son’s addiction the way a lot of parents would with denial. I am also not a fan of steamy love triangle but it can happen I suppose. That said the book as a whole is interesting, Marva’s story in particular. 2.5 stars

Holiday Reading and Listening 2020

I know this is not exactly the right time of year to be discussing holiday-themed books but life has been more difficult than usual lately and I wasn’t writing as much but have started again – or at least I am trying to write more. With that said …. If you are ever interested in book recommendations for something to enjoy over the holidays – save this post! Or put some of these books of on your Goodreads “I Want to Read” List. When the holidays start to roll around, I have started to look for books that help get me in the mood. 2020 was a very difficult year, especially to get into the mood for celebrating the holidays. I started off with Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak which about a family that quarantines together during Christmas – nothing to do with COVID though. I enjoyed listening to this book which was narrated by Jilly Bond and runs 9 hours 34 minutes. The story is a little predictable but a good listen for the holidays. 3.5 Stars.

In this, the most wonderful time of the year, food is the savior. It s food that oils the wheels between deaf aunt and mute teenager. It is food that fills the cracks between siblings with cinnamon scented nostalgia, and it is food that gives the guilt ridden mother purpose.

Francesca Hornak – Seven Days of Us

Winter Street by Erin Hilderbrand, narrated by Erin Bennett is a Christmas novel which I found to be alright. A good listen for December but it wasn’t my favorite and it’s the first in a series which may have something to do with it. I have found with “first in a series” books that the good ones can stand up alone, on their own, despite the series. The audiobook runs for 6 hours, 51 minutes. 2.5 stars.

With this in mind, Ava tells herself to be present and celebrate the holiday instead of wishing it were over. Afterall, one is given only a certain number of Christmases in one’s life.

Erin Hilderbrand – Winter Street

Children were an act of optimism – sheer belief – the future will outshine the present.

Samantha Silva – Mr. Dickens and His Carol

I love Charles Dickens and last year listened to his A Christmas Carol. So this year, I was particularly excited to stumble upon Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva. As a writer, I have often wondered where great authors have found their inspiration and this is a story which explores that very idea. I really enjoyed this story – it’s a classic unto itself. Samantha Silva does an excellent job of giving us a fantastical glimpse into the muses and catalysts for some of the greatest stories ever written. A wonderful book! Narrated by Euan Morton, who was very good and runs 8 hours, 9 minutes. 5 Stars.

A good biography tells us the truth about a person’ a good story, the truth about ourselves.

Samantha Silva – Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Next up was One Day in December by Josie Silver, narrated by Eleanor Tomlinson and Charlie Anson, who were very good. I enjoyed this book even though I am not one for romantic stories but there was something about this story I found relatable. Looking over my notes at all the quotes I liked, I see Josie Silver and I are on a similar wavelength. Four Stars

There comes a point where you have to make the choice to be happy, because being sad for too long is exhausting.

Josie Silver, One Day in December

Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time.

Josie Silver, One Day in December

Bites by the Page is a great Instagram account which I have gotten a lot of great book recommendations from in the past and it didn’t disappoint for a good holiday read either. A Christmas Memory is wonderful book by Truman Capote which includes three short stories about the holidays in the south. Truman Capote is a master storyteller, the stories are real and don’t make any pretense that holidays are always happy.

Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do. So the Lord has spread the task among all of us. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus. I am. You are.

Truman Capote, One Christmas

Finally, a classic quickie at only 1 hour and 20 minutes long, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, narrated by Katherine Kellgren. The Snow Queen is what Disney made into Frozen and is a story ultimately about friendship.

When we get to the end of the story, you will know more than you do now.

Hans Christian Andersen – The Snow Queen

My Audiobook Club- November/December 2020

There’s been a lot going on in my life and in the world and I have been way behind in my writing. The end of the year brought for me a whirlwind of listening to my audiobooks while I dealt with life, the holidays and worked on my drawings which you can see on my art blog Xine Segalas Creatives .

I have found listening to my audiobooks to be quite a comforting routine which I didn’t realize I was in until I well into it. I started listening to audiobooks while driving from New Hampshire down to visit my family in Connecticut almost 5 years ago. I still owned my house down there and I drive down frequently during the summer and fall to check in on the house, my son who was living in the house and visit my friends and family. I used to listen to music when I drove but the four hour drive after doing it for so long was boring and certain stretches I would struggle to stay awake. I remembered that listening to talk radio helped me once during a particularly long drive from Michigan to Connecticut, but I don’t enjoy listening to talk radio and thought audiobooks a better option. Since developing this new habit – which due to some great books, I extended my listening time to when I was indoors working on my art or on the computer. It makes tedious chores like filing and weeding a whole lot more enjoyable. Last year I listened to over 50 audiobooks – so much better than anything on TV.

I started the month of November 2020 with The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I am a huge fan of mythology – greek, roman, norse or otherwise. So I was ready to head back into another and I did not regret diving into Miller’s novel.

What’s admired in one generation is abhorred in another.

Odyssus to Achilles’ son

Miller sticks pretty close to the events in Homer’s Iliad but casts Achilles’ best friend, Patroclus as the narrator. This allows us into Achilles’ world from the uniquely close perspective of his closest friend and paramour, Patroclus. Narrated by Frasier Douglas who has the perfect voice for this type of book which ran 11 hours and 15 minutes. I really enjoyed this take on Achilles’ story and gave the book four stars on my Goodreads page.

I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know in death, at the end of the world.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto was an interesting book. I listened to this book for one reason and one reason alone: I have always enjoyed Mitch Albom’s books. Albom did not disappoint me either this this story about a fictional musician as told by the narrator, Music. Music is exactly what and who you think he is – “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color” – except he is telling us the story of Frankie Presto.

This is life. Things get taken away. You will learn to start over many times — or you will be useless.

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

It’s a brilliant epic story that takes us through a sort of history of music, as real musicians that we all know from Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, The Byrds and more are interwoven throughout the story and Frankie Presto’s life.

There are so many great quotes from this book, it’s hard for me to just pull one or two. Mitch Albom is such a gifted writer when he pens such beautiful metaphors. The audiobook is narrated by Mitch Albom, Paul Stanley – yes, from the band KISS and George Guidall and runs 9 hours and 43 minutes.

” Everyone joins a band in this life. You are born into your first band. Your mother plays lead. She shares the stage with your father and siblings. Or perhaps your father is absent, an empty stool under a spotlight. But he is still a founding member, and if he surfaces one day, you will make room for him. As life goes on, you join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you play a distinct part and it will affect you as much as you affect it.”

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

I can’t remember where I first saw this book and thought – my, that looks interesting, but I am glad I did. The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson is a fascinating story about as the subtitle suggests about beauty, obsession, and the Natural History heist of the century. This was the second true-crime book I have ever ventured to read – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote being the first. But it took me decades to return to a genre which can be very interesting and not always bloody. I found this to be a interesting story about a terrible crime which more people should know and care about. The audiobook is narrated by Macleod Andrews and runs 8 hours and 4 minutes. Four Stars.

I guess I was in a mood and continued with the true-crime genre with a classic, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Jeff Berendt and the version I listened to was narrated by Jeff Woodman. There are a couple of versions of this book in the Audible library, I choose the one with that had been listen to by more people and had a higher rating to boot than the other version offered. This book runs 15 hours and 4 minutes and there is a lot of meat to this story and I rated it 4 stars.

Rule Number One: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen. That is when you find out everything you want to know.

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is an unconventional but very funny memoir. Matt is a great storyteller and listening to his book is like sitting down with him and sharing a few beers. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir with his bumper sticker philosophy and all.

“I’m not perfect; no, I step in shit all the time and recognize it when I do. I’ve just learned how to scrape it off my boots and carry on.”

 Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

The Archer by Paulo Coelho narrated by Vikas Adam is 49 minutes of powerful storytelling. I have been a fan of Paulo Coehlo’s since reading The Alchemist, so when I came upon this quick little audio book , I was certainly open to listening. I like finding sort, quick listens. Length is not defines how deep or powerful a story can come across to the reader. A truly gifted author can send a profound message to the reader in just a few words. I found listening to the Archer I was hit with the arrows of his words. I highly recommend either reading or listening to The Archer.

Use your bad moments to discover what makes you tremble. Use your good moments to find your road to inner peace. But do no stop either out of fear or joy.

Paulo Coelho, The Archer

I have started to use the website Goodreads.com to track the books I have read, want to read etc… You can see some of these and other book reviews of mine on my profile page there. If you are also on the Goodreads.com site friend me!